The Vapors

Vapors}}The Vapors are an English new wave and power pop band that initially existed between 1978 and 1981. They had a hit with the song "Turning Japanese", which reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart in 1980 and No. 36 in the US Billboard Hot 100.



Based in Guildford, Surrey, an early version of the band was playing the Three Lions pub in Farncombe when The Jam's bassist Bruce Foxton spotted them. The band's line-up stabilised with David Fenton (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Howard Smith (drums), Edward Bazalgette (lead guitar) and Steve Smith (bass). Howard Smith and Steve Smith were not related. The band was originally named The Vapours, but had removed the "u" to help garner more attention in North America. Foxton then offered the band a few gigs and agreed to jointly manage them with John Weller (father of Paul Weller). The Vapors were then offered a slot supporting the Jam on the Setting Sons tour in 1979.

The band signed to United Artists, releasing their first single, "Prisoners", at the end of 1979, but it failed to chart. Their second single is the song for which they are best remembered: "Turning Japanese". The track was produced by the Jam's producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven and reached number 3 in the UK and number 1 in Australia. It was also a top-ten hit in Canada and New Zealand, and reached the top 40 in the United States. "Turning Japanese" was believed to euphemistically refer to masturbation, although Fenton (the song's writer) denied that claim in an interview on VH1. He did, however, say he wished to thank whoever first came up with that interpretation, as he felt the salacious rumour about what the song 'really' meant may have been what made it a hit. The follow-up singles "News at Ten" and "Jimmie Jones" both peaked at number 44 in the UK Singles Chart.

The band released two albums: New Clear Days (1980) and Magnets (1981). New Clear Days contained "Turning Japanese" and displayed a new wave sound with socially conscious lyrics. That album reached the middle of the charts in the UK, Canada, and US. Magnets revealed a power pop sound and darker lyrics, with the song "Jimmie Jones" making reference to cult leader Jim Jones. That album sold poorly and the band broke up in 1982. Fenton alleged in a later interview with Record Collector magazine that lack of record label support was the chief reason for the band's split, while a planned single release was cancelled without explanation.

After the Vapors broke up, David Fenton joined the legal profession in the early 1990s, concentrating on the legal aspects of the music industry, and from 1999 he worked as a London-based in-house solicitor for the Musicians’ Union. Edward Bazalgette became a television director; his credits include a 2005 BBC documentary about Genghis Khan and two episodes of Doctor Who in 2015. For many years Howard Smith ran an independent record shop, People Records in Guildford, the band's home town. Steve Smith formed the band Shoot!Dispute, which appeared in John Peel sessions, and toured in support of Bruce Foxton; and later joined the rap/rock band 1ST.


After 34 years of inactivity, David Fenton, Ed Bazelgette and Steve Smith appeared on stage at the Half Moon in Putney on 30 April 2016. With a guest drummer standing in for Howard Smith, they played "Turning Japanese" and then left the stage. Rumours of a reunion were rife, and the Vapors completed a four-date tour in October/November 2016 with Michael Bowes on drums. The Vapors continued with six more concerts in 2017 and 10 in 2018. That included 3 dates in New York City with David Fenton's son, Dan Fenton, standing in for Ed Bazelgette on lead guitar, where they played several new tracks, including "Secret Noise", "Sundown River", "Letter to Hiro (No11)", "The Right Stuff", "One of My Dreams", and "King L".

As of 2017, the band’s catalogue masters are controlled by Razor & Tie Industries. On 21 April 2018, they re-released "Turning Japanese" on red vinyl with bonus tracks for Record Store Day.

In April 2019 the band was announced as the support to From the Jam on the 30 date Setting Sons 40th Anniversary tour. The Vapors had been the opening act for The Jam on the original 1979 ‘Setting Sons’ tour.

On 3 March 2020, The Vapors announced that they would be releasing a new album titled Together and released a new single "Crazy." . Together was released on May 15, 2020, being the first album The Vapors released in 39 years and marking one of the longest gaps between studio albums.


Studio albums

Compilation albums